Behind the One-way Mirror

Accident. Mistake. Agency. Transaction. Mirror. Comments. 

The difference between accident and mistake is agency. I caught a glimpse of myself in the one-way mirror window. I knew they were watching me. Sylvie also. I looked pretty none too natty having slept the night in my new black and white camel hair jacket, the to the hilt popping blue diamond tie with bright orange accent circles now loose and wrinkled and hanging as low as my attitude. Feeling none too benevolent about myself, not at all, as I stared at my reflection in the glass. As soon as I got this god anger management problem under control, I was going to start in on my self image, I really was. But they had asked me to handle the transaction for them. These transactions are especially complicated. The stars must align pin point right, the players all set up. And there’s risk. I was by the skin of my teeth their agent. They were on the transaction, watching every move. They knew the risk, gave the authority. I didn’t sit at a computer and do all this. All I did was get the players to the table. Relationship bits and bobs. Trust. But how would the transaction disappear like that? Somebody broke into the stream and stole the file. Simple as that. Could be some kid from some small town in Kentucky for all we know. Some high school hacker, not even sure of what he’s got, no way to cash in on the instruments. The file could still be in cyberspace, and we’ve lost the tools necessary to pull the transaction up. Like something lost in real space, the file will continue to travel like the unraveling of pi. Unless the file was destroyed by a random noise issue, randomness, maybe an agent with a randomizer. A supercomputer. Behind a one way mirror. I drive the rig. I’m the race car driver, not the builder, not the mechanic, not the sponsor, and certainly not the owner. I don’t bother lifting the hood to see if the car’s propelled by an internal combustion engine or a nuclear reactor. Makes no difference to how I need to execute. Sylvie notes that’s a mistake. Who knows, who knows what they think. Very few comments, though the comment light was on. Walter is a fairly secluded and elite group of owners. Nothing in common with one another that I can figure out. These transactions are like poker games with them. And I’m on the carpet. The board room table is even covered with green felt. You dig that? I’m trying to figure out what’s meaningful here, and I have to tell you nothing too obvious at this point. I stood on the corner of Pike and 1st, above Pike’s Market, watching a Vashon ferry come across a disturbed bay. The air bit cold into my skin cut deep and found bone. The wind was blowing in circles, rain pouring down and around, puddles, running gutters. Rain now with sleet and snow flurries blowing in my face. I seemed to be the only person on the street. I hustled down to Pike’s to grab some breakfast at the Athenian. I wanted to talk to Molly. I needed some help. I needed a friend. I was about to make a trip, and I didn’t know if I was coming back. It was probably all a mistake. Or it might have been an accident. I was trying to discover any kind of reciprocal relationship.

“Behind the One-way Mirror”
is episode 11 of
Ball Lightning
a Novel in Progress
in Serial Format at The Coming of the Toads.
(Click link for continuous view of all episodes.)


  1. In a conversation with oneself who speaks? Who might listen?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Joe Linker says:

      S’io credesse che mia risposta fosse
      A persona che mai tornasse al mondo,
      Questa fiamma staria senza piu scosse.
      Ma percioche giammai di questo fondo
      Non torno vivo alcun, s’i’odo il vero,
      Senza tema d’infamia ti rispondo.

      Let us go then, you and I,

      When the evening is spread out against the sky

      Like a patient etherized upon a table;

      Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,

      The muttering retreats

      Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels

      And sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells:

      Streets that follow like a tedious argument

      Of insidious intent

      To lead you to an overwhelming question …

      Oh, do not ask, “What is it?”

      Let us go and make our visit.

      In the room the women come and go

      Talking of Michelangelo.

      The yellow fog that rubs its back upon the window-panes,

      The yellow smoke that rubs its muzzle on the window-panes,

      Licked its tongue into the corners of the evening,

      Lingered upon the pools that stand in drains,

      Let fall upon its back the soot that falls from chimneys,

      Slipped by the terrace, made a sudden leap,

      And seeing that it was a soft October night,

      Curled once about the house, and fell asleep.

      And indeed there will be time

      For the yellow smoke that slides along the street,

      Rubbing its back upon the window-panes;

      There will be time, there will be time

      To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;

      There will be time to murder and create,

      And time for all the works and days of hands

      That lift and drop a question on your plate;

      Time for you and time for me,

      And time yet for a hundred indecisions,

      And for a hundred visions and revisions,

      Before the taking of a toast and tea.

      In the room the women come and go

      Talking of Michelangelo.

      And indeed there will be time

      To wonder, “Do I dare?” and, “Do I dare?”

      Time to turn back and descend the stair,

      With a bald spot in the middle of my hair —

      (They will say: “How his hair is growing thin!”)

      My morning coat, my collar mounting firmly to the chin,

      My necktie rich and modest, but asserted by a simple pin —

      (They will say: “But how his arms and legs are thin!”)

      Do I dare

      Disturb the universe?

      In a minute there is time

      For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.

      For I have known them all already, known them all:

      Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons,

      I have measured out my life with coffee spoons;

      I know the voices dying with a dying fall

      Beneath the music from a farther room.

                     So how should I presume?

      And I have known the eyes already, known them all—

      The eyes that fix you in a formulated phrase,

      And when I am formulated, sprawling on a pin,

      When I am pinned and wriggling on the wall,

      Then how should I begin

      To spit out all the butt-ends of my days and ways?

                     And how should I presume?

      And I have known the arms already, known them all—

      Arms that are braceleted and white and bare

      (But in the lamplight, downed with light brown hair!)

      Is it perfume from a dress

      That makes me so digress?

      Arms that lie along a table, or wrap about a shawl.

                     And should I then presume?

                     And how should I begin?

      Shall I say, I have gone at dusk through narrow streets

      And watched the smoke that rises from the pipes

      Of lonely men in shirt-sleeves, leaning out of windows? …

      I should have been a pair of ragged claws

      Scuttling across the floors of silent seas.

      And the afternoon, the evening, sleeps so peacefully!

      Smoothed by long fingers,

      Asleep … tired … or it malingers,

      Stretched on the floor, here beside you and me.

      Should I, after tea and cakes and ices,

      Have the strength to force the moment to its crisis?

      But though I have wept and fasted, wept and prayed,

      Though I have seen my head (grown slightly bald) brought in upon a platter,

      I am no prophet — and here’s no great matter;

      I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker,

      And I have seen the eternal Footman hold my coat, and snicker,

      And in short, I was afraid.

      And would it have been worth it, after all,

      After the cups, the marmalade, the tea,

      Among the porcelain, among some talk of you and me,

      Would it have been worth while,

      To have bitten off the matter with a smile,

      To have squeezed the universe into a ball

      To roll it towards some overwhelming question,

      To say: “I am Lazarus, come from the dead,

      Come back to tell you all, I shall tell you all”—

      If one, settling a pillow by her head

                     Should say: “That is not what I meant at all;

                     That is not it, at all.”

      And would it have been worth it, after all,

      Would it have been worth while,

      After the sunsets and the dooryards and the sprinkled streets,

      After the novels, after the teacups, after the skirts that trail along the floor—

      And this, and so much more?—

      It is impossible to say just what I mean!

      But as if a magic lantern threw the nerves in patterns on a screen:

      Would it have been worth while

      If one, settling a pillow or throwing off a shawl,

      And turning toward the window, should say:

                     “That is not it at all,

                     That is not what I meant, at all.”

      No! I am not Prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be;

      Am an attendant lord, one that will do

      To swell a progress, start a scene or two,

      Advise the prince; no doubt, an easy tool,

      Deferential, glad to be of use,

      Politic, cautious, and meticulous;

      Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse;

      At times, indeed, almost ridiculous—

      Almost, at times, the Fool.

      I grow old … I grow old …

      I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.

      Shall I part my hair behind?   Do I dare to eat a peach?

      I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach.

      I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.

      I do not think that they will sing to me.

      I have seen them riding seaward on the waves

      Combing the white hair of the waves blown back

      When the wind blows the water white and black.

      We have lingered in the chambers of the sea

      By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown

      Till human voices wake us, and we drown.

      Source: Collected Poems 1909-1962
      BY T. S. ELIOT


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